Katherine Sabbath Inspired 4-Layer Meringue Birthday Cake (Cheat)

Happy birthday to me! I’m finally 16!

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I’m one of the youngest in my grade, and although I liked being the only one in my classes who was 15 while others were 16, it feels pretty good to be 16. 16. 16! The sweet sixteen.

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This year, my brother turned 18 (what!) and I turned 16. I’m hoping that this year will go well, overlooking the fact that my brother started his first year in university and I’m starting my first year of the IB, of course.

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I wish that along with the study of chemicals and human behavior and history and language, there was a study of time. Maybe it exists somewhere out there, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s not a course in the IB. If it were, I’d be taking it as a higher level for sure.

Time is – to put it simply – absolutely amazing, and absolutely mind-f***ing.

The brain takes a fraction of a second to process information, so everything that’s happening around you is technically already in the past. And the stars that you gaze up at, including the sun. The light from those stars take seconds and minutes to travel from far away into your eyes, so you’re seeing those in the past. If a star went out, you’d still see it shining for a little while longer, because your eyes no longer view the present. Then there’s also that physics theory, where time isn’t always relevant. The theory states that if you’re next to something of an exceptionally large mass, or traveling at an exceptionally high speed, time slows down. I guess that’s a physics thing, but still.

Then again, time isn’t just about the unmatched human perception of time, it’s also about how much can change in either a millisecond, or over the course of a lifetime. Take this quote from DJ McHale: “A second is nothing. A tick on the clock. Seconds pass all the time and we never think about any one of them. But a second can be an eternity.” (I know, I already shared that quote on my last birthday cake post, but it was worth sharing again).

Tragedy happens at the same time as miracles do. I remember, a couple years back, I was on vacation in Europe. It was nighttime. Dark and rainy. My family and I didn’t have any rain protection, and we were frantically running to find our way back to our hotel. At that moment, I was absolutely miserable, and then I started to think. Someone out there in the world is having the best moment of their life. Perhaps getting married, or a couple welcoming their child into the world, yet I’m here, drenched, dripping, and shivering. Ever since then, I’ve always thought similarly at times of low, and it cheers me up to know that someone out there is having the best time of his/her life. Vice versa. When I’m happy and grateful for all the goodness around me, I take a moment to think about someone across the world who may be rushing through thunder and lightning, desperate for shelter, and although it may not help, I close my eyes and send out my condolences.

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Anyways, enough about time.

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I celebrated my birthday with my friends a couple of weeks before my actual birthday. It was a shared birthday party that I celebrated with my best friend, who turned 16 on August 24.

I found out that she, along with most of my friend group, hadn’t ever gone and properly done karaoke. I was stunned. We were in China, in Beijing! I’d done karaoke countless times, karaoke places are like a second home to me. During my childhood, when I lived in Beijing, I’d say that there were only 3 places people ever celebrated birthdays, child or adult: At home, laser tag, or karaoke.

Naturally, I insisted that we went and did karaoke, and then went back to my house to have dinner and cake and to chill, so that’s what we did. We truly had such an amazing time, and my friends got me the best gifts I could’ve asked for. I went to bed that night feeling loved. I was so happy to have received a dessert journal and Bobby Singer’s Journal and the Enchanted Garden coloring book and a cookie cookbook and a fountain pen and stickers and candy roses and etcetera etcetera. Plus, seeing everyone’s reaction to this cake was pretty memorable, but seeing my best friend’s reaction to finding out that she got a Polaroid? Priceless.

I won’t post any of the birthday party photos for the sake of my friends’ confidentiality, but I’ll post my “birthday in photos” here on my photography page tomorrow.

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I’ve always wanted to make a Katherine Sabbath cake. A couple months ago, I started planning cakes for all my family’s birthdays this year. I made my brother a Funfetti Layer Cake, my dad a Classic Tiramisu, and I knew that I had to make a Katherine Sabbath inspired cake (mom’s birthday is still coming up!).

There was one night a few days before I started making this cake where I got so excited about the cake that I couldn’t sleep ’til 3am. Granted, I spent a few hours looking at cakes, but still, I couldn’t stop thinking about cake!

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In the end, all was worth it. See how this is an 8-inch, 4-layer birthday cake? In just one night, a little group of girls consumed pretty much the entire thing. Two or three slices were taken home on paper plates, and my mom and I decided to save one slice for the next day, but the rest of it? Gone. Utterly gone.

Normally, there’s cake left over. Cake’s too sweet. They’re too full. Yada yada. None of that happened with this one. The cake layers were perfect. They weren’t dense and overwhelmingly sweet, but were fluffy, light, just the right amount of flavor. The frosting, though! I have to admit, the frosting is my favorite part of this cake. No surprise there, of course. I used the queen’s recipe. Katherine Sabbath’s, that is. I’ve always loved cream cheese frosting, but the fact that freshly whipped cream is folded into this one makes it so incredibly fluffy. It’s not diabetes-sweet and rich like most buttercreams, but is light and beautiful and tangy and has a hint of sweetness that balances perfectly with the crisp meringues.

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I absolutely adore making layered cakes. If you do make this recipe, you’ll know what I mean. It took quite a bit of time, but I seriously loved making it, especially the part where I got to dribble chocolate over the cake. That was fun. My layered cakes don’t always look as beautiful as the ones from around the web, and this one surely doesn’t compare to anything by Katherine Sabbath, but I did my best.

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Katherine Sabbath Inspired 4-Layer Meringue Birthday Cake

Adapted from recipes linked below

Makes 1 8-inch, 4-layer cake

Ingredients:

  • You’ll need a recipe for 4 cakes: 2 chocolate and 2 vanilla. You could also bake a chocolate mud cake and a white chocolate/vanilla mud cake, and slice them in half to create 4 layers. These need to be fully cooled and preferably trimmed before assembling

For the meringues

  • 3 egg whites, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (150g) superfine sugar
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Food coloring (preferably powdered)*

For the cheesecake filling

  • 500g cream cheese, softened
  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 200g freshly whipped cream
  • 200g icing sugar, sifted
  • 2-4 drops blue food coloring

For the chocolate glaze

  • 5 ounces (150 g) best-quality dark chocolate, chopped (I used Lindt)
  • 3/4 cup (90 g) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup or honey

*I don’t have access to powdered food coloring, so I used water-based food coloring for the blue/green, and used beetroot powder for the pink one. The beetroot powder worked quite well. Meringues call for preferably powdered food coloring, as it keeps them dry, but as long as you keep them in an airtight container in the fridge, you should be fine.

Method:

  1. For the meringues, preheat oven to 90 degrees Celsius or 200 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer or a medium bowl with an electric hand mixer, whip the egg whites with the cream of tartar until you get soft peaks. Add in the sugar a tablespoon at a time, and then turn the mixer to the highest speed and whip until meringue is stiff and glossy. This should take a few minutes. Beat in vanilla extract.
  3. Divide the meringue into bowls and tint them using food coloring of your choice. Transfer into a piping bag with a star or round tip of your choice and pipe onto two baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  4. Bake both trays until crisp, but not browned. This can take anywhere from 1-1.5 hours depending on the size and humidity. You should be able to remove the meringues from the parchment paper without them sticking. Store in an airtight container in the fridge
  5. For the cheesecake filling, use an electric mixer to whip cream cheese, butter, icing sugar, rose water and food colouring until pale and fluffy. Fold in whipped cream until combined
  6. To assemble, place approximately 1/2 tablespoon of the frosting on the center of a cake board, and place your bottom cake layer onto the cake board. Add about 1/2-3/4 cup frosting onto the top of the cake, and using a small offset spatula, spread the frosting so that it covers the top of the cake. It’s okay to let a little bit of frosting go over the side. At this point, you may sprinkle on some crushed meringues if you wish (making sure to save the pretty ones for decorating!). Add the next cake layer (different flavor) and repeat until you’ve reached your final cake layer
  7. Cover the cake with a thin layer of frosting, also known as crumb coating it, and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes
  8. Cover the cake in a final layer of frosting, and chill in fridge for at least 15 minutes
  9. For the chocolate glaze, in a small bowl, melt the chocolate, butter, corn syrup and salt in the microwave, about 50 seconds, and stir until smooth. Let cool until it thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.
  10. (Assembling, continued) Remove the cake from the fridge and spoon the chocolate glaze to the edges of the cake, gently pushing some over the side and letting it dribble down. When you’ve finished putting chocolate glaze on the edges of the cake, spoon chocolate glaze into the center until covered. Decorate the cake immediately with meringues and other desirable decorations/sprinkles
  11. Serve!

Red Velvet Rose Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting (Cheat)

SCHOOL IS OVER. I’m aiming to make the most of this summer, as next year’s summer will be 80% devoted to studying :(. Anyways, the recipe I’m sharing today is one that I made approximately 8 months ago…

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Yeah. I made it for my mom’s birthday, which is in November. Here I am, posting the recipe in June. You can probably tell that these photos were from a little while ago, considering the bad lighting and whatnot, but the cake tasted amazing and I didn’t know if I’d ever make the exact same cake again, so I figured that I may as well post this one.

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My mom absolutely adored this cake. It’s literally 100% perfectly suited to her taste, and the rest of my family’s taste for that matter. Why? Well…

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We don’t like Chinese cakes. They’re really really fluffy, which is okay, I guess, but they don’t taste like anything. They’re just fluffy cakeness, and they’re filled with tons and tons of cream that, yet again, don’t really taste like anything. My grandparents got a cake once for one of their birthdays, and it ended up being like, 80% cream and 20% cake. Then the cakes are usually topped with more cream (but in different colors) and whatnot. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Chinese bakery cakes ALL the time. I’d still eat them, but c’mon…

We don’t like American buttercream (well, I’m okay with it). They think that it’s way to sweet, and the cakes are usually quite high in sugar too. I looked at dozens of cream cheese frostings prior to this cake, and the cream cheese to sugar ratio varied drastically. Some frostings required 7 cups of powdered sugar, and some required 2, with the same amount of cream cheese! I went with one that’s less sweet, which doesn’t make you want to puke after 2 slices of cake, and lets the distinct flavor of the cream cheese remain. There’s 16oz of cream cheese to 2 cups of powdered sugar, which is a pretty decent ratio, in my opinion, with a little bit of butter. Feel free to add more sugar to taste.

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If you’re wondering about piping the roses, it’s seriously so much easier than I thought. It took me about 5 minutes to pipe the roses. I’m not kidding. All you need is a 1M piping tip (I got one online for about a Euro and it’s my favorite piping tip now. I’ve used it for my funfetti cupcakes too). If you want, just watch this short video to get a better idea on how to make one.

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Red Velvet Rose Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Makes a 2-layer 8-inch cake

Ingredients

Cake:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp red food coloring
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (or all-purpose)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup buttermilk

Frosting:

  • 16oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups icing sugar, sifted (if you want a sweeter frosting, you may use up to 4 cups powdered sugar)
  • Little silver candy beads (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius, or 375 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. For the cake, using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (approx. 5 min)
  3. Mix in the cocoa powder, food coloring, flour, baking soda, baking powder ,salt, vanilla, vinegar, and oil until just combined. Do not over-mix
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time
  5. Mix in the buttermilk
  6. Transfer the mixture into two greased 8 (or 9) inch cake pans
  7. Bake in oven for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean
  8. Allow the cake to cool in the pans for 10 minutes, before cooling completely on a wire rack
  9. For the frosting, using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the cream cheese until light and fluffy
  10. Beat in the butter and vanilla extract until light and fluffy
  11. Gradually beat in the icing sugar until smooth. At this point, you could add a little bit of milk (1 tsp at a time) or a little more powdered sugar (1 tbsp at a time) until you reach a desired consistency
  12. To assemble the cake, make sure that the cakes are completely cooled before frosting. I wrapped each cake in 3 layers of plastic wrap and froze them prior to trimming/frosting. If your cakes have domed, then trim the top of the cake off so that the tops are flat
  13. Spread about 1/4-1/2 cup of frosting onto one of the layers, and place the second layer on top. Spread about 1/2 cup frosting to create a thin layer over the layered cake (this is called crumb coating. If you’re in a hurry, you could skip this step, but it’s recommended, as it will ensure that no crumbs are visible after frosting)
  14. Freeze the crumb-coated cake for at least an hour (optional, but recommended). Place a 1M piping tip into a piping bag and fill with cream cheese frosting. Pipe roses around the side of the crumb-coated cake, and then pipe roses on the top of the cake. Add swirls or kisses of frosting in the places that aren’t covered by the roses. Place a little silver candy bead in the middle of each rose if you want. Enjoy x

Vanilla Rose Cupcakes + Vanilla Frosting (Cheat)

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

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I’ve never actually had a Valentine. Is that sad? Hey, I still have a few valentines to go.

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Besides, I’d rather spend my valentines baking and sitting around and eating and binge-watching Supernatural. I watched 4 episodes yesterday and it wasn’t even Valentines Day yet.

I didn’t actually do that, though. Well, sorta. I tested out a microwavable-french-toast-in-a-jar recipe and baked a plaited milk bread and cooked a heart-shaped egg in the middle of a slice of toast and made single-serving healthy cookie dough. More importantly, I went on a date…with my mom 🙂 We ate at Honeymoon Dessert and brought clothes (which I haven’t done in months tbh) and got a free coupon for a chocolate fondue (best part). It was a pretty great day.

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I did bake these incredibly delicious cupcakes for a Valentines-themed bake sale. How do I know that they were delicious? Well, I ‘tasted’ one of them. One of the unfrosted ones, at least. (I had to know if tasted decent!)

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The unfrosted cupcake I had was so so so so good. It was all moist and flavorful and oh-so-perefect. My cupcakes were the first to sell out at the bake sale. They sold out in practically 3 minutes flat. My brother managed to buy one before they sold out, as well as two of his friends. They all loved the cupcakes so much. Another friend of mine brought a cupcake and walked away with it. She came back later on to tell me that they were absolutely delicious. Needless to say, I’m pretty happy with these cupcakes, especially since this was the first time I piped roses like these.

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I think they’re probably the prettiest cupcakes I’ve ever made, too.

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To pipe roses on your cupcakes, you will need a petal tip. I wish that I could put together a tutorial on how to pipe roses, but I’m not really sure how. There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube, which is how I learned to make them.

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I can give you a few tips though.

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In terms of the temperature of the frosting, if you want very ruffle-y roses with rougher edges (picture above on the left), chill your frosting for 3 minutes or so in the fridge to allow it to firm up, and repeat this when the frosting starts to warm up. Colder frosting requires more energy to pipe, because it doesn’t get out of the piping bag easily, but I personally like the way they turned out better.

If you want smoother edges, and an easier frosting to pipe out, then simply use the frosting as it is. Your hand on the piping bag should naturally warm up the frosting so that it’s easy to pipe.

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I tried to do the thing where you put a line of food coloring inside the piping bag so that the edges of the rose are a different color, but obviously, I wasn’t paying enough attention to realize that the line of food coloring was in the middle. It still looks kinda pretty, though, doesn’t it?

 

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How did you guys spend your Valentine’s Day?

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Notes:

Vanilla Rose Cupcakes + Vanilla Frosting

Cupcakes adapted from Cupcake Project

Makes 16 cupcakes

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 1 cup (225 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups (175 grams) cake flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup (57 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) full-fat sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup (160 ml) whole milk

 

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup (115g) butter
  • 1/2 cup (95g) shortening
  • 3 cups (360g) powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tbsp (13-30 ml) water or cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method:

Cupcakes:

  1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees Celsius, or 350 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix together sugar, cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  3. Add butter and mix on medium-low speed for three minutes until the mixture is crumbly
  4. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, sour cream, oil, and vanilla extract until smooth
  5. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat on medium speed until just combined
  6. Slowly add milk and mix on low speed until just combined
  7. Fill cupcake liners just over 1/2 full
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcakes comes out clean, without any of the batter stuck to it
  9. Remove the cupcakes from the cupcake tin and leave to cool before frosting

Frosting:

  1. Using a stand/hand mixer, cream the butter and shortening together until smooth
  2. Add powdered sugar and mix until combined
  3. Add vanilla extract and 1 tbsp water/cream and mix until smooth
  4. Add more sugar or water/cream to achieve desired consistency (too stiff = add water/cream, too soft = add sugar or chill in refrigerator for 2 min)
  5. Pipe frosting onto cupcakes

 

I love you guys ❤ xoxo